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Taliban on Their Heels, Pentagon Spokesman Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 7, 2012 – Coalition and Afghan forces have reversed the Taliban’s momentum and will continue to build on that success, a senior Pentagon spokesman said today.

“The Taliban’s momentum has not only been thwarted, it’s been thrust back,” Navy Capt. John Kirby told reporters. “We believe they are in a much weaker position.”

In December 2009, President Barack Obama announced a surge of 33,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. These forces, deployed mostly in the south, took the fight to the Taliban and their terrorist allies.

Training for Afghan forces proceeded apace, and the number of forces will reach 352,000 later this summer. Even with the withdrawal of 10,000 American troops in December 2011 and another 23,000 by the end of September 2012, more forces are facing the Taliban threat.

“The Taliban [are] in a much weaker position as we head into this spring than they were as little as a year ago,” Kirby said.

U.S., coalition and Afghan forces were very active during the winter months – when the Taliban typically go underground – and this has paid off as the fighting season proceeds.

Even high-profile Taliban attacks are not reversing the tide against the organization, Kirby said. “Just take a look at the high-profile attacks, or the attempted attacks, that they’ve tried in the last month,” he said, noting “a lot of ballyhoo” over a coordinated attack in and around the Afghan capital of Kabul on April 15.

“It was over by the next morning,” he said. Another attempted attack in the hours after Obama’s visit to Afghanistan last week was “completely ineffective,” he added.

U.S. officials believe the Taliban are on their heels. “It is much more difficult for them to move around, to resource, to plan and execute,” Kirby said, though he added it’s too early to count the Taliban out.

“They are still a resilient, determined enemy,” he said. “We understand that. But we really do believe that we have wrested the momentum from the Taliban.”

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